Jul 7, 2020
By Stephanie Derammelaere
After months of having to cancel scheduled astronomy-related events for the public due to Covid-19, Robert Ferguson Observatory is hosting several programs in July that will give the public an informative and educational experience while adhering to social distancing protocols.
While the observatory cannot yet open its doors for the public to use its telescopes due to social distancing limitations, docents found another way to create fun, family events that will provide a much needed opportunity for the community to witness the magic of the universe and spend a beautiful evening under the night sky.
“We are following the county’s orders to not hold public events indoors,” says Chris Cable, Executive Director of Robert Ferguson Observatory. “But our knowledgeable and dedicated docents managed to create a couple programs that will help inspire the public and continue our mission of bringing the universe to our community.”
The Night Sky Trails program, held on both July 11 and 18, features six observatory docents treating small groups to laser guided tours of the constellations. Keeping visitors in family groups and rotating the groups every few minutes will ensure both social distancing measures, as well as give each group the opportunity to view and learn about a different part of the night sky. The entire laser guided tour is expected to last one hour, with tours offered at both 9:30 and 10:30pm.
The second event, held on July 16, is aptly called “BYOB&C”, or “Bring Your Own Binoculars and Chairs.” This entertaining and informative event, held from 9 to 11pm, is a guided tour into the wonders of the night sky that are visible through common binoculars. Guests will station their chairs at socially distanced locations in the parking lot outside the observatory and knowledgeable docents with laser pointers will guide guests to the hidden secrets of the night sky. Visitors can expect to see double stars, open star clusters, globular clusters, nebulas, and Jupiter and its moons.
“Visitors are required to follow Covid-19 precautions including wearing face masks and social distancing from other family groups,” says Cable. “Individuals exhibiting symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and fever, who have tested positive, or have been exposed to others who have tested positive, should not attend. We are also limiting the number of participants to ensure a safe environment. Therefore, visitors are asked to sign up and pay ahead of time online, to ensure a spot as well as to minimize contact at the event.”
All events, while scheduled, are subject to change in accordance with Covid-19 county and state guidelines. Visit www.rfo.org to confirm that an event has not been cancelled. Ticket purchasers will be notified by email of any changes. The Night Sky Trails event costs $5 per person plus a $10 State Park, per car parking fee, and youth under 18 are free. The BYOB&C event costs $25 per adult and $20 for seniors over 62 and youth under 18. All proceeds go towards maintaining this beloved Sonoma County institution.
-Night Sky Trails: 9 -11:30pm.Guests will be in small groups with individual RFO docents, each group treated to an hour-long laser-guided tour of the constellations.
Bring Your Own Binoculars and Chairs: 9 -11:30pm. This is a guided tour into the wonders of the night sky that are visible through common binoculars.
Night Sky Trails: 9:30pm-12 midnight. Guests will be in small groups with individual RFO docents and treated to an hour long laser guided tour of the constellations.
Robert Ferguson Observatory is run by the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association, a 501(3)(c) non-profit, and has offered outreach-based astronomy and science programs to the public for almost 25 years. RFO is almost all-volunteer run and typically serves about 9,000 visitors annually. The observatory is located in Sugarloaf State Park and houses a 40-inch reflector telescope, the largest telescope in Northern California that is accessible to the public; a robotic 20-inch research-grade, “CCD” telescope; and an 8”, two-meter long refractor telescope. Like us on Facebook @RobertFergusonObservatory.
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